With Great Risk, Comes Reward for AZ

They say every opportunity comes with risk, and that's certainly true of Arizona's game at New England this Sunday. The Cardinals have lost three of their last four overall, as well as their last four games against teams with winning records. This is not the roll they were talking about when they said they wanted to enter the playoffs with momentum.

Sunday's game against the Patriots is important for the Cardinals in numerous ways. First, the Cardinals need to prove they can win away from home against a good team.

Second, they need to win their last two games to finish the season at 10-6, which would be their most victories in a season since moving to Arizona in 1988.

Third and most important, the Cardinals desperately need to play well, and win, to restore their confidence. Their self-esteem has suffered some body blows with recent blow-out losses at Philadelphia and at home against the Vikings.

The players are talking about practicing better, being on the same page, finding motivation, etc. If they aren't able to, Sunday's game could get ugly.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--QB Kurt Warner has committed nine turnovers in the past five games -- seven interceptions and two fumbles. He hasn't been as accurate as he was earlier this season.

--RB Tim Hightower remains the starter, but he doesn't play much in the spread formation, and that's the one the team has been using the most lately. Hightower won't get a lot of touches this week, but is an effective short-yardage back.

--RB J.J. Arrington is making big plays weekly as the single back in the team's spread formation. The Cardinals use draws and screens to create space for Arrington, whose quickness and speed make him dangerous in the open field.

--RB Edgerrin James didn't play last week, the third time that's happened this season. His role will not be expanded.

--WR Anquan Boldin struggled in the team's three blowout losses this year: He had drops, fumbles or both in losses to the Jets, Eagles and Vikings.

--WR Larry Fitzgerald needs to get some passes thrown to him early. He wasn't much of a factor last week against the Vikings. Teams are keeping a safety over the top on his side to prevent him from getting deep.

--WR Steve Breaston has been a reliable deep threat. The Cardinals love to use him on deep routes, and he's made several big plays.

--TE Stephen Spach is starting now but isn't much of a factor in the passing game.

--TE Leonard Pope is returning to health after a foot injury, and he is a dangerous receiver down the middle.

--K Neil Rackers has made 19 of his last 20 field goals. His only miss came on a 68-yard fair-catch kick. Last week, all three of his kickoffs were touchbacks.

--OLB Travis LaBoy has a sprained ankle and might not be able to play on Sunday.

--OLB Clark Haggans might be out for the rest of the season after aggravating a foot injury last week.

--CB Eric Green has descended rapidly down the depth chart. A former starter, Green was inactive last week, meaning he was the team's fifth cornerback.


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